March 25, 2021
The Public Interest Auction is an annual event that brings together the entire law school community to raise funds for public interest fellowships and other public interest initiatives. This popular event draws hundreds of students, faculty, alumni, and friends. With the generous support of businesses and donors, participants get to bid on a wide array of experiences and luxurious items while also trying their luck with some irresistible raffles!
Celebrating 25 Years of Public Interest Stars!
Special Donor Recognition
Matthew P. Cahill '92
William Cavanaugh, Jr. '80
Prof. John P. Clarke '57
Erica B. Fine '82
Robert Gunther ’84
Rachel R. Paras '04
Doug Vetter ’91
Dr. Vincent C. Alexander '75
Anne (Nancy) Alexander '80
Prof. Renee Allen
Hon. Karina Alomar
Andrea Alonso ‘81
Prof. Adrián Alvarez
Arthur's Funeral Chapels Inc.
Atlantic Theater Company
Bach to Rock, Port Washington
Jonathan Bartov '09
Michelle Wiederman Bartov '16
Prof. Jennifer Baum
Jacqueline E. Berkowitz '75
Lori and Rob Bittel
Prof. Thomas Blennau ‘02
Career Development Office
Prof. Rosa Castello
Fred Cerullo '86
Eugenie Cesar-Fabian '04
Hon. Leigh Cheng ‘96
Olivia Cheung ‘17
Prof. Elaine Chiu
Amanda ChuBrittany Clark '22
Jenna Codnignotto ‘22
Columbia Leadership Group
Tom Curran '91
John Curran '94
Danielle D'Aguila '12
Hon. Ben Darvil '03
Ryan DeBiase '19
Prof. Marc DeGirolami
Meryl Diamond '99
Mrs. Iris Diaz
Hon. Nestor H. Diaz '89
Gerard DiConza '94
Rose DiMartino '81
Beth Do ‘21
Prof. Catherine Duryea
David Eskew '04
Prof. Sheldon Evans
Prof. Tom Foley
Four Five Coffee Roasters
Hon. Jessica Earle Gargan ‘00
Steve Gartner ’84
Tom Giuffra ‘94
Prof. Ann L. Goldweber
Mr. David R. Grambo
Prof. Elayne E. Greenberg
Robert J. Gunther '84
Nicole Hanna '21
Rich Hans ’93
Herff Jones Commencement Specialists
Mouna Jaouad '22
J.D. Admisssions Office
Hon. Denise Johnson ‘07
Michelle Johnson '05
Glenn M. Katon '92
Dean Sarah Kelly
Kendra Scott LLC
Keith R. King '16
Prof. Kate Klonick
Lawrence P. Krasin '94
Melissa Kubit Angelides
Prof. Christine Lazaro
Leo F. Kearns, Inc. Funeral Directors
Mr. Lane F. Liston
Lo & Sons
M88 Media, LLC
Colin Marinovich '21
Glenn J. Martin
Gina Martinez '04
Teresa A. Mattone '88
Joe Mattone Jr. '86
Michael Mattone '91
Maura A. McLoughlin '91
Alain Messina ‘00
Mid Island Air by Vince Basile
Mighty Quinn's Barbeque
Gary F. Miret '86
John Molino '19
Prof. Patricia M. Montana
Moot Court Honor Society
Paul Murphy '90
Xiomara Pacheco (MIM's Bakery)
Ron Palmese '03
Jack Piontkowski '19
Jimmy Pitaro '94
Thomas J. Principe ‘69C, '73L
Dariana Reid '22
Revolve Indoor Cycling
Ally Rivard ‘20
Hon. Reinaldo E. Rivera '76
Phil Rizzuto ‘93
Dorian Rojas '15
Fern Schair '65
Dean Courtney Selby
Ellie Sheinwald ‘21
Christopher Simone '94
Katherine Regan Simone '95
Dean Michael Simons
Vice Dean Andy Simons
Prof. Rachel Smith
Sojo SpaSpencer Pilates
Prof. Jeff Sovern
Richard Stehl '92
Robert Stein; Director, Mattone Family Institute for Real Estate Law
Student Bar Associationrof. Eva Subotnik
The Gravity Vault
The Mattone Institute
The North Shore Center for Comprehensive Dentistry
The Office of Development and Alumni Relations
The Office of Graduate Studies
The Office of Public Safety
The Piluso Foundation
The Women’s Law Society
Prof. Jacob L. Todres
Total Wine & More
Olivia Tourgee '19
Martin Uli ‘22
Uncle Giuseppe’s Marketplace
Francisco Vasquez '94
Viscount Wines and Liquors
Prof. Cheryl Wade
Connor J. Winship '22
Terry Winter '88
Brian Woods - Associate Dean of Development and Alumni Relations
Ashley Zangara '17
Join us virtually on March 25, 2021 to celebrate the 25th annual Public Interest Auction! As we celebrate the 25th Anniversary, we recognize in a special way the true stars in this world, our alumni, faculty, and students who tirelessly dedicate their careers to Public Interest. Please help us applaud the individuals who have supported the auction and our fellows for the past 25 years.
Monetary donations of any amount are always welcome! Please visit our donations page to learn more. Select "Public Interest Auction 2021" as the designation!
If you are interested in serving as a sponsor, please see the opportunities below. All sponsors will be recognized on our auction website. Please contact Brian Woods at [email protected] to become a recognized sponsor.
$4,000 Full Public Interest Summer Fellowship in Your Name
$2,000 Partial Summer Public Interest Fellowship
$1,000 Full Spring Break Service Trip
$500+ Partial Spring Break Service Trip
Tax Deductions: Donations are tax deductible. A donation receipt can be provided.
No donation is too small! Our committee builds collections of small items to put into themed baskets. Below are some popular auction items.
In lieu of certain in-person experiences we are looking to offer virtual experiences (i.e. Virtual Private Cooking Lesson). Please contact our Solicitation Chairs to brainstorm ideas.
Olivia Piluso[email protected]
Noel Ball[email protected]
Please send donation items to the address below along with a copy of the donation form:
St. John’s University School of Law
Belson Hall 4-54
8000 Utopia Parkway
Jamaica, NY 11439
If you have general questions about this year’s auction, please contact:
Ashley Williams[email protected]
Elizabeth Sheehan[email protected]
Co-Directors of Fundraising
The Public Interest Center
Every week for five weeks we'll profile five Stars of Public Interest from St. John's Law–25 in total for the 25th anniversary of the Public Interest Auction. Check back each week as we add stars to our wall of fame!
For over 25 years, the St. John’s Law clinics have been a vehicle for students to actively engage in public interest work. This experiential learning has opened students eyes to the realities of the world, and the difference an advocate can make through public interest work.
Click here to learn more about our clinics.
Originally the Elder Law Clinic, the Consumer Justice for the Elderly Clinic has expanded from focusing on small consumer issues to being the first clinic in the country to tackle predatory lending cases. Today the clinic represents clients on a variety of cases including: deed theft, foreclosure defense and predatory lending, home improvement contractor fraud cases, and debt collection.
In addition to representing clients, the clinic focuses on community education. Through “know your rights” presentations, students have the opportunity to hear from community members and connect with issues.
The impact of the clinic’s work cannot be understated. In some instances it has helped clients keep their homes, and remain in communities they have lived in for upwards of 30-40 years.
Professor Goldweber has dedicated her entire professional career to public interest work. Entering law school, she knew she wanted to pursue a career as a public interest, legal services attorney. Her time serving in the criminal defense clinic at Wisconsin law school foreshadowed her unwavering commitment to the clinical programs at St. John’s School of Law. Throughout her career Professor Goldweber was a public interest trailblazer at Legal Action of Wisconsin and the N.Y. Attorney General’s Office. As the Director of Clinical Education, Professor Goldweber has worked to expand the clinics from the singular Elder Law Clinic to the many clinics students participate in today. Professor Goldweber believes a clinic education gives students skills and professional identities, and fosters a holistic approach to client representation. As Professor Goldweber stated: “The clinics have had an impact advocating for people who would otherwise be unrepresented and not able to get justice.”
At Brooklyn Law School, Professor Baum interned at the Legal Aid Society in the Juvenile Rights Division's Special Litigation Unit. There she worked mostly on class actions on behalf of impoverished children. After law school, she eventually obtained employment with the Legal Aid Society in one of the Juvenile Rights Division's trial offices. The Child Advocacy Clinic was first established by Theresa Hughes in 2003 in a partnership with the Legal Aid Society. Professor Baum began working with the clinic in 2008 and has been the Director of the clinic ever since. Though the clinic started out focusing on child abuse and child neglect cases, over the years another need became clear – legal representation for immigrant children. There was an increase in the need for representation of abused and neglected children in "Special Immigrant Juvenile Status" cases. These are children who would be deported but for the fact that deportation would return them to an abusive or neglectful household. As there is no right to appointed counsel for these children in immigration court, the Child Advocacy Clinic provides those children with representation for these matters on a pro bono basis.
When asked about the clinic’s student participation, Professor Baum stated, “The impact on both the students and the clinic is: inspiration.” The students that work with the Child Advocacy Clinic have the opportunity to “use all the knowledge they have been accumulating over their law school career and put it to use for the people.” When asked what public interest meant to her, Professor Baumresponded, “A legal education is a privilege. It is the privilege of not only understanding the laws that affect individuals and society generally, but it is also a privilege to be a part of the system and have the ability to improve it. To work in public interest means taking your legal education and using it to improve people’s lives. To be able to dedicate one’s life to teach students how to aid the disenfranchised is an inspiring responsibility that I take seriously every day. It’s not about going to work and just handling a case, it’s about promoting ethics and fairness. Public interest is a true commitment to raising the participation level of disenfranchised populations in society's legal systems so that they too can enjoy the benefits experienced by those with privilege.”
Child Advocacy Clinic 10 years ago.
Amanda Beltz is the director of the Domestic Violence Clinic at St. John’s University School of Law. Amanda is an Alum of both St. John’s Law and the Domestic Violence Clinic. The Domestic Violence Clinic Started around 2000 and has continued to flourish since then. The clinic partners with NYLAG to give quality clinical experience to law students at St. John’s.
She has worked in public interest throughout her entire life from volunteering as a child to joining the peace corps for three years. After returning from the peace corps, Amanda decided to pursue her passion for public interest through law school.
Amanda’s commitment to public service has been consistent in every part of her legal career starting with the Domestic Violence Clinic, who partners with NYLAG where Amanda now works. At the domestic violence clinic, Amanda had great mentors that fostered her passion and helped her continue her career. She spent some time working at Legal Services for New York City, but has found her happiness at NYLAG.
Currently, Amanda, along with other members of the Domestic Violence Clinic, have been working on helping people get emergency orders of protection. This process was strained severely by the COVID-19 pandemic because people usually came into the courthouse to get these orders. However, Amanda and her team have innovated and now take clients' information and interview them over the phone to access the situation and how they can help people get the orders of protection that they need.
When asked what Public Interest means to her Professor Beltz responded, “It’s a calling. It’s a passion. I grew up poor in a single parent household, and I saw how public interest people assisted us. There’s no one that doesn’t deserve assistance when they need it especially when they have legal troubles. I wish public interest could be as respected as other areas of law because some of the best and brightest people work in public interest.”
Amanda applauds the Public Interest Center for continuing to do the work needed and continuing the auction.
Before law school, Ms. Masters worked as union organizer and tenant advocate in and around Washington, D.C. As a tenant advocate, she became interested in how the law can be an avenue for social change and justice. Throughout law school, she focused on racial and economic justice in my courses, internships, and clinics, and, after graduating, she started working at The Legal Aid Society as a housing attorney. As a Supervising Attorney, Ms. Masters works with her colleagues to defend tenants in eviction proceedings and to represent groups of tenants asserting their rights under the law.
The Tenants’ Rights Advocacy Clinic represents low-income New Yorkers facing eviction, substandard living conditions, and landlord harassment. During an unprecedented public health emergency and with a housing crisis looming, the Clinic continues to meet the needs of our clients and adapt to the changes in the court system and housing law. The Clinic began in Spring 2020. As the right to counsel expands, the Clinic offers students the opportunity to engage in the dynamic and ever-changing field of housing law. The first semester was an eventful one! Halfway through, the pandemic hit. The clinic curriculum adapted to working remotely and adjusted to changes in the court system. As the world continues to contend with the Covid-19 crisis, the Clinic continues to fight for housing justice. The students who participate in the Clinic bring a fresh perspective to housing law and housing court. By working together and approaching their assignments with diligence, hard work, and creativity, the students have a positive impact on their cases and the issues faced by their client’s communities. By representing tenants in eviction proceedings and other efforts to assert their rights, the Clinic assists low-income New Yorkers in maintaining secure and affordable housing.
When asked what Public Interest means to her Ms. Masters responded, “For me, public interest work is about pursuing social and racial justice. As housing advocates, we work with our clients and client communities to address both the immediate crises caused by housing insecurity and the root causes of structural injustice and inequality. Public interest work can take many shapes, but, for me, it means centering the lived experiences of the people most affected by the laws and policies we are engaged with and working to challenge inequality in the systems and institutions we work within.”
Mattone Family Institute’s information session on housing court tenant advocacy work
Professor Dalling’s exposure to international rights began after college when she lived in Venezuela for a year teaching English, while working as a freelance journalist. Afterwards, Professor Dalling attended Columbia Law and eventually worked at a law firm focused on security and transactions for their Latin American practice. During her tenure at the firm, she completed various pro bono projects focused on immigration. Ultimately, she decided to develop her passion for immigration and return to her social justice roots, so she transitioned into her role at Catholic Charities.
Professor Dalling currently serves as one of the clinic professors for the Refugee and Immigrant Rights Clinic where she enjoys supervising and mentoring of law students. The clinic began as collaboration between Catholic Charities and St. John’s, eventually developing into what it is today, which aims to strike a balance between providing students with actual practice litigating cases while receiving instruction on the subject matter of the law.
The clinic allows law students to get involved and interested in an extremely complex but important field, especially in dealing with asylum cases. While remoting learning has prompted some changes, she believes the clinic's ongoing casework gives exposure to actual removal proceedings for students and eventually (when the clinic is not remote) actual litigation experience.
When asked what public interest means to her, Professor Dalling responded, “developing your skills, experience, and talents. Advocating for marginalized individuals and communities, and working in support of a policy that works to achieve a more equitable society.”
The Auction Founders
It all started 25 years ago when Professor Erica Fine and a passionate group of students decided to raffle off several BarBri review courses to raise funds for the first-ever public interest fellowships at St. John’s School of Law. The following year, the auction grew in size and raised $25,000. Without the ideas and dedication of these individuals, the Public Interest Auction would not have grown into the largest student-led fundraiser at the law school.
Star 1: Professor Erica Fine
Star 2: Christine Bella '96, Legal-Aid
Star 3: Brian Breheny '96, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP
Star 4: Krista Miniutti '96, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP
Star 5: Class of '97 Contributors
A special thank you to every individual that followed these initial founders and kept the auction thriving.
Christine Bella shared her perspectives on starting the first Public Interest Auction, and the importance of continuing this tradition:
“As a law student committed to public interest work in the class of '96, I soon learned that funding to support summer internships at community based legal services organizations such as The Legal Aid Society was hard to come by. I am grateful to my fellow St. John's law students and alum who came together to start the public interest auction at St. John's so that law students would receive necessary financial support to gain valuable legal experience in the public interest. Funds raised at St. John’s Law School's Annual Public Interest Auction provide vital funding to law students dedicated to public service. Students working in public interest law offer New York's most vulnerable access to quality legal services to protect their basic needs. As lawyers and especially as St. John's Law alum, we should embrace this opportunity to support law students pursuing jobs in the public interest. It is the Vincentian tradition, and we have a shared obligation to assist others achieve access to justice and fairness.”
Every year our St. John’s Law students answer the call to engage in public interest work. These students have continued to build on the legacy of previous generations of St. John’s students by fostering a commitment to public interest through leadership positions, service trips, externships, and fellowships.
Read more about how public interest work has impacted their legal education:
Star 1: Sierra Fischer, Executive Director of the Public Interest Center
“The Public Interest Center and public interest work as a whole is my biggest passion. I went to law school for the sole purpose of becoming a Prosecutor and making a positive impact on the community and I am so grateful that I get to do just that.
The Public Interest Center and all those who support it allow me, my colleagues and future public interest students to pursue our dreams of serving the public. As Executive Director of the Public Interest Center, I get to have an active role in continuing the legacy of giving back.
This is not just a law school organization that you forget about after graduation— this is a lifelong membership that serves as a constant reminder that you always have the ability to affect someone’s life in a positive way.”
Star 2: Ellie Sheinwald, Executive Director of the Public Interest Law Students Association
“Getting involved in the Public Interest Center when I got to St. John’s was a no brainer for me. I came to law school with the goal of serving the public interest and figuring exactly what pursuing justice meant in that context. The Public Interest Center has become one of the communities within St. John’s that I’ve grown to love. I’ve been so grateful to play a role in planning and executing public interest focused events and identifying fulfilling pro-bono initiatives for our student body. My law school career wouldn’t have been so full and enriched without the outside’s impact that the public interest center has had on me.”
Star 3: Dallas Neely, PIC Fellow
“Public interest work has defined my legal education. Working with Legal Aid and Brooklyn Defender Services has demonstrated the importance of the work that public defenders do here in New York City. My exposure to public interest work has demonstrated the importance of fighting for systematic change within our criminal justice system to ensure actual justice for all people and all New Yorkers. Our legal system should be equally accessible to all people. Regardless of income, regardless of race or regardless of any other status within society. Public Interest legal work looks to ensure that access to the legal system for all parties, which is what I hope to be a part of.”
Star 4: Jeremy Ashton,
“Public interest work is important to me because I believe as lawyers we have a moral obligation to make the world a better place. This feels even more urgent as a global pandemic brings to light the longstanding inequality throughout our country. Being granted admission to the bar brings with it the power to directly affect clients lives. I wish to pursue a career related to public interest, such as working with ACS to address child abuse and neglect cases in Family Court, or to work for an agency within the Protection and Advocacy system (such as Disability Rights New York) to fight for those with disabilities.”
Star 5: Stefanie Williams, PIC Fellow
Many St. John’s Law alumni have turned their budding passion for public interest as students into flourishing careers dedicated to public service. These alumni have been trailblazers starting from their days as a student, and continue to shine bright in their professional careers.
It is an honor to acknowledge these incredible alumni for their contributions to public interest. Read more about their stories, and why a public interest career path is so rewarding below:
Star 1: Allie Cabibbo ‘19
Allie Cabibbo’s engagement with public interest work as a student set her on the path to becoming an attorney with the Legal Aid Society. Hear more about her tireless dedication to public interest work:
Star 2: George Tsiatis ‘11
George Tsiatis ‘11 is the CEO & Co-Founder of the Resolution Project, which aims to develop and empower young leaders so they can pursue socially responsible solutions to issues affecting communities around the world. Hear from him about how impactful public interest work can be in our world:
Star 3: Dorian Rojas ‘15
Dorian Rojas ‘15 is a supervising attorney at Safe Horizon, the nation’s largest and leading crime victim assistance organization. She has legal experience in both the private and public sectors but currently specializes in immigration cases. Dorian specializes in U-Visa/VAWA cases involving domestic abuse and other violent crimes. She also has experience with Special Immigrant Juvenile Status for children who have been abused, abandoned, and/or neglected, asylum, removal defense cases, and family-based petitions
Dorian’s involvement in Public Interest started long before her enrollment in law school. At the Legal Aid Society, Dorian worked on family foreclosure prevention in Queens. It was there that she was approached by Professor Goldweber, who noticed Dorian’s efforts to help those who were facing foreclosures. Professor Goldweber encouraged Dorian to apply to law school - specifically St. John’s - and encouraged her to participate in the Consumer Justice Clinic at St. John's. Dorian went on to take Professor Goldewber’s advice and enrolled at St. John’s. Aware of Dorian’s passions and interests, Professor Goldewber became a mentor to her and guided her throughout her journey in law school.
“Public interest is a way of life. It is an essential part of my character. I understand the power of information and resources so my involvement in the Public Interest Sector is my way of showing gratitude for those who have helped me to get where I am today by giving back to the community.”
Star 4: Lisa Schreibersdorf ‘84
Lisa Schreibersdorf ‘84 is the founder and executive director of Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS). For over 20 years, she has devoted her career to helping low-income New Yorkers navigate the criminal, family, and immigration justice systems. Under her leadership, BDS has grown to become one of New York City’s largest legal services providers. Lisa was previously featured in the Spring 2018 edition of the St. John’s Law Magazine where she spoke about her dedication to public interest: “We’re doing vital community work. Every day BDS staff is in the courtroom, at the statehouse, in the nation’s capital, and out in the streets of Brooklyn to ensure that people’s legal rights to due process and human dignity are enforced and respected. It’s a privilege and honor to have been able to start something with that type of profound and lasting impact.”
Star 5: Ally Rivard ‘20
Ally Rivard ‘20, formally served as the Executive Director of the Public Interest Center. She shared her motivation for pursuing a career in public interest:
“As a teacher, I encountered so many students whose needs weren’t met and voices weren’t heard regardless of how hard they tried.
The public interest center provided me with amazing opportunities throughout my time at St. John’s and enabled me to pursue internships that confirmed my passion was in addressing these same issues at a larger scale. The legal system is complex, and it is so easy to fall through the cracks, but throughout my time at St. John’s Law I became increasingly inspired by those I saw around me working to address these complexities and underserved communities through public interest work.”